Scottish Government announce Free Schmallenberg (SBV) tests
Farmers in Scotland are being offered free tests for the Schmallenberg virus (SBV) in animals imported from areas where the virus is circulating.
The move is a result of a partnership involving the Scottish Government, the National Farmers Union of Scotland (NFUS), Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) and Moredun Research Institute (MRI).
The Scottish Government already funds the SAC and MRI to investigate clinical cases where SBV infection is a possible diagnosis. The cost to farmers is the standard Scottish Government subsidised rate for such investigations.
NFUS have now announced additional support for SAC Veterinary laboratories to test free of charge up to four blood samples per farm from either cattle and sheep moving from areas known to be affectedby SBV. Cattle and sheep moving to Scotland from the area south of a line from Lincolnshire, to the Severn Estuary, will be eligible for the testing.
Knowing whether SBV is present, either on their farm or in the local area, could help farmers to make informed choices about the timing of breeding.
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:
“News of any emerging disease is always concerning for farmers and livestock keepers”.
“However, we now have a clearer idea of how the virus spreads and the relatively short time taken for animals to develop immunity. By testing animals that have been recently moved to Scotland we will get an early warning if the virus arrives in Scotland and will be able to trace its spread.”
“This will allow farmers to make informed decisions about their breeding schedule which may help to minimise the impact of the virus and is an excellent example of Government and industry working together to face a common threat.”
Nigel Miller from NFUS said:
"With Scotland probably at the northern edge of SBV's range, it is uncertain how the virus will behave if imported with autumn livestock movements. It is likely that autumn's lower temperatures will result in vector insect activity slowing, potentially stopping the spread of the virus.”
"As livestock movements peak over the next few weeks, however, SBV could establish in new areas, including Scotland. Ewes or cows in early pregnancy are the main concern. Post-movement testing can act as an early warning for those sourcing livestock from the south. That anonymous data can be shared through regional incidence mapping and inform the wider community of any developing disease risk.“
"NFUS, in partnership with SAC, MRI and the Scottish Government, have put together a support package for farmers wishing to test animals, post-movement, that have been imported from the defined risk area. Up to four animals per producer will be processed free of charge by SAC Vet Services, with funding allocated for an initial 400 animals across Scotland. The resulting antibody status can influence management decisions on the testing farm and will inform an evolving regional risk assessment to help alert farmers of any disease threat.”
"Preventative action will only be meaningful in autumn-calving cows or ewes. In these cases, delaying breeding of naive animals until vector activity drops in November may minimise impacts on foetal lambs or calves. Vaccine development is in progress and may provide more effective and flexible protection if a real threat to Scotland develops.”
"We are in unknown territory as we enter the tupping season and autumn calvers go to the bull, however, any farmer that takes up the testing option and shares results can help Scotland minimise the problems of SBV next spring."
Dr Kim Willoughby of the Virus Surveillance Unit at Moredun said:
"Research into Schmallenberg virus is underway in many countries. It was hoped the Schmallenberg virus might not overwinter in England but recent results have shown new infections are occurring now, and post-movement testing will allow Scotland to accumulate more knowledge about the risks of bringing in animals from affected areas." She added “It is unknown however whether the disease will establish in Scotland even if it is introduced.”
Brian Hosie – SAC Consulting, Veterinary Services, Group Manager said:
“SAC fully supports this initiative, which is designed to help Scotland’s livestock sector understand more about a disease, which poses a real threat to the industry. We would urge livestock keepers to be alert, consult with their vets and do nothing which puts Scotland at any additional risk.”
Further information about SBV and outlining the possible impacts of the disease and best practice guidelines for those sourcing stock from risk areas can be found here
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